When I was in high school, one of my friends was very into playing with ouija boards. She was living with her grandparents because of her family situation and I was living on my own because of mine. I really liked going over to her house, because I was very lonely a lot of the time, and her grandmother always had a full pantry. My friend and I used to hang out in her room for hours, smoking and trying to contact dead celebrities. And the ouija board worked— the planchette moved, we had conversations with whoever (although never Marilyn Monroe as we both secretly hoped would happen).
We did talk to someone whose name started with M— actually M was the only name they ever gave. The planchette would start to move in a really fast, aggressive triangle when M showed up, and M was bad news. M’s defining feature was that s/he did not like me. At all. M would always spell out terrible things about me, about how and when I would die, that kind of thing. I know, the ouija is subconscious (or not-so-subconscious) movement, right? But it seemed very… purposeful and real, somehow. Even if we invited other people over to play, M would show up. It was creepy. Eventually we moved on to some other pasttime, and I stopped thinking about it.
A few months into our senior year, my friend and I had a falling out and stopped speaking. I didn’t have a lot of other friends at the time. Hard to believe that a manic-depressive poetry nerd with a ouija enemy wasn’t very popular, but it’s true. After school I used to go back to my little apartment where I lived alone and listen to music and read and try to get the one channel I could get on my ancient tv.
I was bored. I wanted someone to talk to. Guess where this is going. I started to play ouija by myself, using a ouija board that I’d drawn. And it worked. Or I made it work. Or whatever. Eventually M showed up again with triangles and nasty words and messages of doom, and even though I was pretty sure M was some kind of creation of my self-hating subconscious, I decided not to play anymore. Things started to get a bit weird. First it was dishes clattering in the kitchen. Not constant, just occasionally. The first few times I went to check it out, but I didn’t see anything. After a while, I stopped getting up to look, but the noises kept happening. I started to get uncomfortable in the apartment. Have you ever had a bad feeling about a place? Like serious bad vibes? I felt that way in my apartment, particularly in the bathroom. But I figured I was just being silly, lonely, over-imaginative.
One night, I was doing some drawing in my sketchbook. I did some paintings too, because I was painting some props for a play I was on the crew for at school, and I was waiting for them to dry. I went to bed with everything laid out on the living room floor. The next morning when I woke up, I went out into the living room, I didn’t have my glasses on, so everything was kind of blurry. I saw my paintings and the finished props and thought “oh good, those are dry” and I was about to go get dressed when I noticed something else on the floor.
It looked like another painting. I went closer. It was a page torn out of my sketchbook, and turned over so the image was on the back. It was a message. It looked like it had been written by a finger dipped in paint, in red paint. and it just said DIE in big red letters. In the bottom right hand corner was an M. And the paper… the paper was scorched. Burnt around the edges, with big brown singes in the middle of the page. That was the worst part. Because for a second I thought “well, maybe I was sleepwalking and legibly wrote a message to myself on this piece of paper and cleaned everything up when I was done”. But the scorching made it REAL.
I stood there, feeling like someone had dropped a cold stone down into my stomach for quite a while, holding this horrible thing. And my choices were really that I had done it and couldn’t remember, that someone else had broken in and done this very specific thing and left without me hearing, or that no one had done it. All of the choices were too unsettling. And I decided to get out of the apartment. But I brought the paper with me, because I wanted to tell someone about it and I knew no one would believe me without the proof. I went to school, but didn’t go to class. I told a couple of friends about this and they agreed that the message should be destroyed, so we took it out in the field behind school and burned it. And I hung out at a coffee shop as long as I could after school so I wouldn’t have to go home, but of course eventually I had to.
There was something that looked like purple lipstick on the wall next to the door to my apartment. When I got closer, I could see it was an M. I left the apartment a couple of weeks later. I haven’t heard from M since. But 20 years later, thinking about playing ouija still makes me very, very nervous.
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